Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Advice for presentations

An atypical post. I am trying to be constructive, for once! My Toastmaster experience has fine-tuned my maxims for better presentations. Hopefully of use for all, but especially of course for people who stutter:

1. Always write down the 4 key messages you want to get across BEFORE your preparation.
What's your mission, sir? You need to focus your point of attack to get into your audience's brain; no point hitting with the flat hand. Ever wondered why a bullet kills but a ball thrown at you with the same energy doesn't? You need to know which mountains to climb to devise a route! Your four key messages guide you in your preparation, and provides the bones for the meat of your presentation. Ignore your brain's pleading for more messages, after all you are not here to tell the story of your life. Leave this shore to your diary or autobiography! Keep it concise.

2. Always keep it as simple as possible
As simple as possible. Everything: the words, the sentences, the images, the slides, and the arguments. Make your message and delivery as simple as possible but not simpler! You can't make a message simple enough for everyone in the audience? Then ignore. The message is not worth being talked about, maybe written about but not talked about... Lure them to your written words instead. Again, ignore your brain's pleading for more subtlety and more sophisticated sounding words, but no: You don't take into consideration the strength of the argument, but you consider the argument. Travel lightly in all respects!

3. Always cut down your speech to 70% of allocated time! Audiences magically sap up our time for no apparent reasons. You need more time to deliver your speech than when rehearsing at home. Happens to everyone. You prepare at home, you are just on the time limit, and in front of the audience the time monster chases you. If you can speak for 7 minutes, cut your speech down to 5 minutes. Again, ignore the hard-breaking pleading of your brain. Those 2 minutes (of slides) you have left out are so so important. Please... No, leave me alone, they are not! Have you ever understood what the 10-seconds-per-slide man wanted to say? I haven't! Don't be our man!
Go into your speech with confidence of eternal time. Make as many long pregnant pauses as you want. Imagine sitting on a nice shady terrace over-looking the beach and chilling out. No hurry. This advice is especially important for people who stutter, because any time pressure makes us much worse.

4. Always learn the first 5 sentences by heart, separate by pauses, and rehearse 10 times. The beginning of a talk should not be the place of hesitation. You need how to welcome them and what to say. If you prepare the first sentences by heart with nice pregnant pauses and practise them, you will have them in your system and you can act in confidence. At least, at the start you don't look like a fool! That's what we call progress!

Good Luck! Here are more goodies, but please take your time and digest mine first...


Daniele Rossi said...

You posted this at the perfect time form me as I'm currently preparing a presentation for next month.

Pamm said...

Perfect. I stutter, and have been in Toastmasters for almost 3 years.
Just gave a speech last night. It really helps to have the forum to practice. I use pauses all the time. I had only 4 paragraphs of material, yet spoke for 9 minutes.
Atypical advice is always good!

Anonymous said...

Toastmasters is not for everyone...
Can you describe specifically how Toastmasters has helped with your stuttering? (do you actually stutter less and can make the transfer)

Tom Weidig said...

Now I am still stuttering but I know now better how to be more fluent in front of people, and I got more used talking in front of people.


René said...

Thanks for these four valuable pieces of advice!